On June 18 in Budapest, Hungary, Mallqui captured a gold medal at the under-15 (U15) World Championships for United World Wrestling. All told, the United States earned 19 medals, nine of them gold.
While it might seem uncommon for young women to wrestle competitively, Mallqui quickly nixed that notion.
“It is the fastest growing sport in America,” said Mallqui. “Last year was the first year that there was a high school girls’ division in New Jersey. It appears that the NCAA is going to recognize it as an emerging sport sometime this year.
“If you Google it, you should see a whole bunch of articles regarding New Jersey girls high school wrestling and NCAA women’s wrestling.”
The soft-spoken Mallqui commenced her grappling career by accident. It was November of 2014, and her brother had just finished his football season at Saint Peter’s grade school in Merchantville and was directed by some teammates to join the Junior Fighting Irish, a Camden Catholic youth recreation wrestling team.
Mallqui’s father Edmund “Elmo” Mallqui, a single parent, took his then 8-year-old daughter along to her younger brother Tresean’s first practice.
“I asked the coach if I can join the practice and he agreed,” said Mallqui, an honors student at Holy Name. “At the end of practice, I asked the coach if I could join the team, and he said that even though they never had a girl on the team that it was OK to join the team.”
Mallqui established herself as a wrestling natural. In only two years, she became eligible at the cadet level (under-17) and continued to improve. Eventually, this past Mother’s Day, she captured a world-team trial tournament title in Irving, Texas, and was told that she had qualified for the world championships as a member of Team USA.
She described her reaction as “very excited and emotional.”
“I love the sport, so I get to have a lot of fun,” said Mallqui. “I also get to travel and make friends along the way. The bad part is that a lot of boys don’t like to wrestle me.
“But anyone can wrestle, so it doesn’t really take dedication to be a wrestler. To become a world champ, though, takes an enormous amount of dedication. It takes a lot of hours practicing … a lot of hours working out … a lot to focus on being healthy and having a good diet. It also takes a dedicated support system.”
In addition to her father’s unlimited guidance, Mallqui raved about her grade school’s overall encouragement.
“Holy Name is very supportive of my athletic career,” she said. “The school administration and support staff have supported me every step of the way. They push me to be a better person every day. They push me to improve academically and athletically.
“They have taught me good morals and how to be a good person and a young lady. The Catholic belief system has helped me have a stronger faith in God, which has helped me have more confidence in myself.”
Wrestling isn’t the only activity in which Mallqui excels. For the past four years, she has been playing ice hockey for the Ed Snider Hockey Foundation, named after the legendary Philadelphia Flyers owner who died in 2016.
“I’ve been on the girls’ travel team for the last two years,” she said. “I love the sport and take it seriously and try to be as competitive as possible.”
After eighth grade, Mallqui remains undecided about which high school she will attend. Ultimately, she said, her long-term goal is to be an Olympic champion, “hopefully in 2024 at the Paris Olympics.”
She has, however, identified part of her plans after high school.
“I have always wanted to go to Penn State University, but the goal is to go wherever I can get the best education possible,” she said. “If women’s wrestling gets into the Ivy League schools, I would like to go to Princeton University.”
Although it is obviously several years from now, Mallqui said she would consider majoring in a field that would help her pursue her love of animals and could see herself as a future veterinarian.
In the meantime, Mallqui is “giving back” by coaching the tot class at Elite Wrestling in Jackson, N.J. She has also coached the tot class at Camden Catholic.
Her most avid fan — her father — described the support from her coaches as “unbelievable.” He said he is “amazed” by his daughter’s dedication, resolve, and lightning quick success.
“To be quite honest, I am still in disbelief,” he said. “I see her every day and she still continues to impress me. I really do not know how she does it. Her belief in herself and her determination and her will to accomplish her goals are quite amazing.
“The scary part is that she isn’t even close to reaching her full potential. She is going to get a lot better, no doubt,” he said.
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)